2024 Stata Biostatistics and Epidemiology Virtual Symposium · 22 February
|Ado-files and string comparisons
|Nicholas J. Cox, Durham University, UK
Sometimes programs defined by ado-files produce puzzling output when called with an if condition followed by a string comparison.
This can usually be traced to a bug (or limitation) affecting commands defined by programs with version less than 6.0. Such programs have an early line something like
which may be seen by looking at the code in a text editor or by typing the file
This version statement (see [P] version or the online help for version) means that what follows is interpreted with Stata behaving as Stata 5.0 (even if you have Stata 6.0 or later).
Under version 5, and before that, quotes (" ") were stripped by Stata from arguments to programs defined by ado-files. Suppose that whatever.ado defines command whatever. What whatever sees when you type
whatever mpg weight if substr(make,1,4) == "Chev"
are the arguments
mpg weight if substr(make,1,4) == Chev
Generally, there are two possibilities:
There is a work-around. Create a variable that will have the correct effect.
gen byte Chev = substr(make,1,4) == "Chev" whatever mpg weight if Chev
That is, you keep the string comparison out of sight of whatever and create an indicator variable that is 1 or 0 depending on whether the relation is true or false. Stata commands that are defined in the executable do not suffer from this problem: generate is one such command.
This is a rare example of users being affected by whether a command is defined by an ado-file or as part of the executable. Typically, that is a consideration for programmers only (apart from performance issues, sometimes).
More ambitiously, you could try editing the code in whatever.ado, but even expert Stata programmers might be very wary of doing that because there might be side effects.
This bug was fixed in Stata 6.0, and programs defined in ado-files under version 6.0 or later do not suffer from the same problem.
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